After grabbing three of the four possible points on the current homestand, from the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Minnesota Wild, there really isn’t much of a question about the primary story line for the final game against the San Jose Sharks. Being the Dallas Stars, especially after holding their own against two quality playoff teams, Stars fans will be looking for the predictable letdown.
The national ESPN crew was even up to date on this aspect of the team - they have a tendency to play to the level of their competition. If that holds true, today’s game against the Sharks could be interesting - and not in a good way.
If you think that Dallas needs a face lift, then San Jose is exhibit A of what happens when plastic surgery goes disastrously wrong. Their forward group is top-heavy, but secondary scoring is almost nonexistent. The team has scored 66 goals in their last 29 games - 10 worse than any other NHL squad during that time (and remember, four of those goals came two weeks ago when the Stars tried to milk a 5-1 lead in the Shark Tank).
The three highest-paid Shark defenders are all north of 30, under contract for at least three more years, and are responsible for nearly a $9 million cap hit per man. Of course, all with the obligatory no move/no trade clause.
To top it off, the San Jose Barracuda are in dead last in the AHL’s Pacific Division, sporting an uninspiring .352 point percentage. Likely, quite a few Barracuda are posing as Sharks. San Jose is looking for a new general manager, and whoever takes the job is going to have their hands full.
If there is any silver lining for San Jose, it’s in net. James Reimer has a winning record through 44 games, with a save percentage of .914 and a goals against average of 2.77. Kaapo Kahkonen has been leaky since Adin Hill went out with a lower-body injury, but considering the amount of rubber he’s faced, that might be understandable.
The Sharks are 1-6-3 in their last 10 and haven’t won in three weeks, but their last two games were overtime losses to the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. This is game one of a back-to-back for the team, with a trip to Minnesota following the game.
All signs point to #Starsing, but maybe tonight is different?
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Michael Raffl (18) - Radek Faksa (12) - Luke Glendening (11)
Marian Studenic (43) - Jacob Peterson (40) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Ryan Suter (20) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Joel Hanley (44) - Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
San Jose Sharks Lineup
Timo Meier (28) - Tomas Hertl (48) - Alexander Barabanov (94)
Nick Bonino (13) - Logan Couture (39) - Rudolfs Balcers (92)
Noah Gregor (73) - Alexander Chmelevski (55) - Matt Nieto (83)
Jeffrey Viel (63) - Scott Reedy (54) - Jonathan Dahlin (76)
Mario Ferraro (38) - Brent Burns (88)
Jaycob Megna (24) - Erik Karlsson (65)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) - Nicolas Meloche (53)
James Reimer (47)
Kaapo Kahkonen (34)
Keys to the Game
No Letdown. If every game is a playoff game, the opponent doesn’t matter. Take care of business and let Minnesota break the Sharks’ losing streak.
Shooting. Dallas has been playing well, but they haven’t been rewarded much for that play. The Stars need to turn their chances into goals, especially since San Jose is particularly stingy on the penalty kill.
Jake Oettinger. Oettinger is the Stars’ number one netminder. He’s been decent recently, but a strong finish will set him up for a tough first-round playoff series.